The Princess Phone: Timeless Communicator
During the economic boom of the 1950s, companies enhanced the design of plenty of practical products to attract new customers and inspire existing customers to upgrade. Bell System nearly missed its mark, finally introducing the Princess telephone in 1959. It would be Bell’s first real foray into widespread marketing, with a product created primarily for women.
it’s little! … it’s lovely! … it lights!
That was the slogan for the new phone, an oval unit that was more compact than any of its predecessors. And it was available in five popular colors: white, blue, pink, beige and turquoise!
The original Princess phone was designed by Henry Dreyfuss, who also designed the Western Electric 302 tabletop telephone, the Westclox “Big Ben” alarm clock, and the Hover Model 150 vacuum cleaner. The new phone featured a “light up” dial in the base that could also be used as a night-light. The light required an external electric transformer, and the phone had an external ringer (initially, Western Electric didn’t have a ringer small enough to fit the Princess).
While popular, many customers complained about the early versions of the phone. The 701 series, weighing nearly three pounds lighter than standard desk phones, proved to be too light… they would slide around during dialing. Western Electric in turn had to retrofit many of them with a counterweight.
The 702 series, which included a ringer inside the telephone, was produced in 1963. A black model was released that same year. Push-button dial on the Princess phone was introduced in 1964.
Despite early problems, the Princess phone held steady for 35 years. Several editions were released, including push buttons, 2-line phones, and 12-button telephones. When AT&T ceased production in 1994, the Princess telephone became a collectible.
Just how popular was the Princess phone? The majority of toy telephones produced during the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s were modeled after her. The Trimline phone, which features the dialer in the handset, somewhat resembles her. And, boy, was she popular in the movies.
I fell in love with the Princess phone after watching Bye Bye Birdie (1963) in the early ’80s. I hadn’t yet noticed one of these gorgeous telephones, which Ann Margaret’s character spends a great deal of time using.
The Princess telephone is possibly the most beloved phone ever. Today you can purchase reproductions that utilize current technology, like the Pink Princess Desk Phone from Crosley, which uses modern technology so you can actually use it as a landline.
If you want to find an original Princess phone, your best bet is eBay and related sites. Of course, you’ll probably stumble across some at flea markets and yard sales, too.
While the value of various editions is determined by many factors, here are the model numbers produced to assist in your search:
701B—the original phone, without the ringer
701D—the original phone with a message waiting lamp
702BM—updated lamp socket (twist instead of push-in), ringer included as part of unit
711B—two line with exclusion, and a slide switch / push button
712B—two line with hold
713B—two line with hold or exclusion
2702B—12-button touch-tone (includes # and *)
2713B—touch-tone two line with exclusion/hold
CS2702BM—touch-tone with no illumination
2703BMG—Signature series released in 1993
Crosley models – replica Princess phones with touch-tone and redial capabilities
Did you make phone calls on a Princess phone? Have an original one you’d like to show us? Comment below!
—Contributed by Pamela Hazelton